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GUIMARAS OIL SPILL: Experts split on when to siphon fuel

October 23, 2006

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By Leila Salaverria
Inquirer, Oct. 23, 2006

(First of a series of I-Team Report)

NO ONE CAN say precisely how much remains of the 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel oil the MT Solar I was carrying when it sank in stormy seas on Aug. 11 off Guimaras Island, causing the worst environmental pollution in the nation’s history.

Estimates range from zero to 80 percent of the cargo that was dumped into the water, says Rafael Coscolluela, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s adviser for Western Visayas. He oversees the ground operations of a task force set up to deal with the multifaceted problems the oil spill has spawned.

Given the amount of oil that has smeared 184 kilometers of the Guimaras coastline, Coscolluela says there’s probably only the Solar I’s fuel that’s left in the tanker resting 630 meters deep on the sea floor.

He says others believe that only two of the 10 oil containers inside the tanker had opened and that 1.6 to 1.7 million liters of oil remained of the cargo the vessel was ferrying for Petron Corp. from its depot in Bataan to Zamboanga when disaster struck.

That’s what it appears from the footage taken in late August by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) sent down by experts on board the Shinsei Maru, a Japanese research ship commissioned by Petron to investigate what happened and what to do next.

Blobs of oil continue to escape from the tanker’s vents – some experts say amounting to 120 liters per day, although others dispute the figure. No one is certain. But the experts agree the steady leak dissipates harmlessly although it remains cause for concern.

(For the full story, click Experts split.)

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